In this series, Healthcare Design magazine asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Here, Tammy Thompson, a patient, registered architect, and president of Institute for Patient-Centered Design, opens up about baby-centered design, patient safety, and more, while posing a few questions of her own to the design community.

1. Baby-centered design
As employers and healthcare providers, hospitals need lactation rooms and thoughtful accommodations to facilitate breastfeeding in postpartum patient rooms. Best Fed Beginnings, a project to improve breastfeeding support in hospitals across the United States, recently awarded support to 89 hospitals with the goal of becoming “Baby Friendly.” Our job as designers is not only to program the lactation space, but to also include design features that make breastfeeding easier for new mothers. The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a call for hospitals to encourage breastfeeding. As hospitals strive to become baby friendly, designers should be on board with ideas.

2. Patient safety
The Joint Commission’s 2013 National Patient Safety Goals continue to include some heavy hitters: medical error prevention, medication safety, and infection prevention. Design teams must exercise caution when creating clinical spaces to avoid “never events.” As discussed in the Patient Experience Simulation Lab at HCD.2012, should tragedies, such as the 2006 infection outbreak in a Canadian ICU, prompt new U.S. code requirements for the placement of sinks and counters in hospitals? 

3. Sound masking
White noise is sometimes used to treat tinnitus. Can it also be useful to treat a noisy patient unit? The technology would allow patients to control white noise from the bed with the goal of reducing unwanted sound in the patient’s room and promoting rest.

4. Design for security
Theft, emotionally charged violent episodes, and malicious attacks on patients have been reported in recent news. How can design strategies, from master planning to medical planning, help protect vulnerable patients (sometimes bedridden, incapacitated or sedated) from intruders?

5. Family comforts
On the Institute’s Facebook page, a patient suggested that comfortable seating/sleeping accommodations for her spouse would reduce her own stress level. Other patients have stated that they worry about family members having access to necessities while they are hospitalized. As designers, how can we use design and technology to provide patients the assurance that family members are welcome members of the care team?

Want to share your Top Five? Contact senior editor Anne DiNardo at for submission instructions.